Silbury Hill, the Pyramid in the Heart of Old England

Mar 24, 2011 by

Silbury Hill, the Pyramid in the Heart of Old England   1990 England SH 800x502

Silbury Hill, Britain’s only official pyramid, dating from around 2,500 BC, is probably the largest man-made mound in the world. Lying at the heart of an ancient ritual landscape in Wiltshire, close to the world-famous stone circle at Avebury, it is a source of intense fascination to millions of people the world over.

There have been numerous attempts by archaeologists to solve the mystery of why this colossal mound was built. Silbury Hill also possesses an otherworldly allure on account of the legends of King Sil, who’s said to be buried inside the hill on his horse, both figures fashioned from or encased in solid gold, and there are other legends of a dark figure on horseback that patrols the base of the hill on moonlit nights.

Silbury Hill is also associated with hauntings, ley lines, crop circles and UFOs, and in recent times has become a kind of New Age Mecca for people fascinated by ‘Earth mysteries’, who regard the mound as either a cosmic timepiece or the representation of some prehistoric Earth Mother.

It was built around 2,500 BC for purposes apparently unknown, as a nine-sided step pyramid or ziggurat, to roughly the same scale and at roughly the same time that the Middle Eastern pyramids and ziggurats were constructed. In addition, it was surrounded by a vast moat and it appears that a spiral pathway led to the top of the hill.

In later times, the Romans built a settlement the size of 24 football pitches around its base, suggesting that it was revered millennia after its construction. In mediaeval times, it was used a defensive position, then Christian Palm Sunday fairs were held on its summit. It attracted the attention of antiquarians, then archaeologists, then a more modern and widespread movement revering the site as possessing divine, spiritual, sacred or even alien qualities.

It’s difficult to separate the archaeological excavations from the depredations of the treasure hunters, because all the diggers have been in thrall to the idea of fantastic treasure being hidden inside the hill. Colonel Drax and the Duke of Northumberland dug a shaft into the summit of the hill in 1776, then John Merewether, the Dean of Hereford, made another attempt in 1849, although his superstitious labourers were almost terrified away by a tremendous thunderstorm. In 1922, Sir Flinders Petrie, the famous Egyptologist, tried to find a burial chamber but failed, then the BBC funded Professor Richard Atkinson and Magnus Magnusson to do the same thing in 1968.

Silbury Hill is viewed by some as a place that attracts UFOs, either due to the strange lights seen in the sky there or because of the extraordinary crop circles that appear nearby nearly every year. It’s regarded as a sacred site by many pagans and viewed as place of spiritual pilgrimage by many New Age adherents. Two powerful ley lines are said to intersect there. The vast moat at its base shows without doubt that this man-made mountain would have qualified as a holy island in ancient times, while there are also legends that it was created by the Devil flying over Salisbury Plain.

Silbury Hill bears close comparison with the ‘Oak Island Treasure Pit’ on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, the location of the most famous example of lost treasure on the North American continent. Both sites apparently contain a fabulous hidden hoard of gold, both are protected by man-made devices involving water, both have been subjected to intensive investigation or vandalism, both are on islands, both have long histories and both are surrounded by a legendary allure.

In November 2007, I became the last archaeologist allowed inside Silbury Hill before work began to seal it off forever by filling in the numerous tunnels made by archaeologists and treasure hunters over the centuries. Courtesy of Mark Kirkbride, Director of Operations for Skanska, the company that was contracted to repair the hill, I was given an unprecedented tour inside Britain’s only pyramid that lasted for 90 minutes, as opposed to the 15 minutes or so accorded to all other visitors, media included.

During this time, I was also allowed to crawl into the labyrinthine voids in the hill above the galleries. It’s a simple fact that more people have stood on the surface of the Moon than have ventured where I did. The structure was deemed too dangerous for inspection by the English Heritage archaeologists, who sent a robot probe into the bowels of the hill, but I saw these catacombs with my own eyes and filmed my time there.

As such, what I have to say constitutes a unique record, and I experienced other unnerving sensations in addition to the constant worry of the roof collapsing, but my account of my time in the gloomy caverns inside Silbury Hill is something I’ll be presenting in a later publication of Mindscape magazine.

Silbury Hill, the Pyramid in the Heart of Old England   PDVD 009

Photograph of Silbury Hill circa 1990, courtesy of my friend Juris Ozols.

Dennis Price

Other Posts You May Be Interested In

Mindscape Blog Tagged with: AgeArchaeologistscrop circlesEnglish HeritageHearthillmoundOld England Silbury HillSilbury Hillworld

About the author

Dennis Price is a classical scholar and former archaeologist; he is also a writer, speaker and broadcaster, who lives in the West of England among the enchanted and sometimes unnerving relics of Britain's past. Regarded as an expert on Stonehenge, he is also the author of The Missing Years of Jesus and is co-author of Ancient Code.
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